Distracted Eating Adds Inches To Your Waist

Texting while you eat lunch?” Or are you tweeting or perhaps watching television? Are the things you do keeping your mind off what you are eating? If yes, you may end up eating more than you think.


Research shows that being overweight is not necessarily due to lack of exercise, unlike what most of us think. Instead, this multi-tasking lifestyle is wreaking havoc on our diets and waistlines as it leads us to being distracted eaters. The end result of it- calorie surplus!

“When our brain is distracted during eating we are unable to fully register what we are eating and how much we are eating,” says Sally Clifton, a Registered Dietitian with Shands Jacksonville’s Employee Wellness Program.

Research found that eating while doing something else leads to difficulty remembering what has been eaten and the feeling of significantly less full which later leads to over-eating and issues with managing the waistline. In the study, when consumption at the test meal (eaten while playing a computer card game) and on a subsequent snack was measured, they found that distracted eaters ate up to 100% more after the meal and that eating while watching TV increased subsequent snack intake by 20% to 100%. It is clear that overconsumption is the primary problem when multi-tasking becomes part of meal time.

As according to Sally Clifton, “It is like multi-tasking – even though we think we can do it, we are never really able to fully devote attention to one task.”

Therefore, be fully engaged in what you are doing. Although this may sound more like a life lesson than nutritional advice, it is important. For that reason, be more mindful when we eat. Try to adopt the following habits:

  1. Do nothing during mealtime, except eat. Keep the electronics away from the dining table. Eat slowly and savour every bite. You don’t want to eat with your mind racing as you’ll tend to naturally eat more. A recent research by UCSF (published online in the Journal of Obesity) found that mastering simple mindful eating along with stress-reduction techniques helped prevent weight gain even without dieting.

  2. Learn that doing nothing is OK. With constant distractions, people are left being less satisfied. So, avoid all distractions and have a day (or hour) being literally unplug (no access to email or anything).

  3. Find pleasure in food and meal time. Make every meal and snack times your chill time and don’t let other things disrupt you. You’ll find that your food seems more special and, in the end, you’ll be more satisfied and less likely to overeat later in the day.

Pick one habit for a start, because getting started is the most important lesson of all. When it seems so easy that you have to roll your eyes, you know you can do it consistently, add another habit. Always remember, small, daily habits slowly stack up on top of each other.


  1. Stress Reduction and Mindful Eating Curb Weight Gain Among Overweight Women. ScienceDaily (Dec. 7, 2011)
  2. Playing a computer game during lunch affects fullness, memory for lunch, and later snack intake. OLDHAM-COOPER ET AL. Am J Clin Nutr December 2010  ajcn.004580
  3. Mindfulness Intervention for Stress Eating to Reduce Cortisol and Abdominal Fat among Overweight and Obese Women: An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Study. Journal of Obesity, 2011; 2011: 1 DOI: 10.1155/2011/651936